Donors are at the heart of every nonprofit’s mission. Their generosity and financial support are what allows you to carry out your activities and march boldly towards your vision. Fundraising is what keeps a nonprofit’s doors open.
The situation is no different for faith-based nonprofits, although many of them shy away from fundraising. They sometimes see fundraising and faith as impossible to co-exist. They feel their supporters might somehow be turned off by the fundraising asks or that their higher spiritual mission will be compromised.
However, although the worry is understandable, it is often unfounded. Well-executed fundraising asks probably won’t damage the reputation of your faith-based nonprofit. And you need them. To do the good work you’re doing, you need to stay afloat.
There is nothing contradictory about running a faith-based nonprofit and making fundraising asks. Money, on its own, is not dirty or unethical. It’s what people do with the money that matters. And your faith-based nonprofit is using it for a good and noble cause.
Now that we got this mindset obstacle out of the way, let’s look at top reasons why fundraising asks are essential to your nonprofit:
People generally have good intentions and are usually interested in giving. However, it is rare that your faith-based nonprofit is going to receive a sizeable donation out of nowhere.
You have to make a real fundraising ask whether this is through direct mailing, face-to-face offering plates, or digital offering plates, organizing events, or social media. Whatever it is, it is important to make a clear and genuine fundraising ask.
Many supporters will put a donation in the basket in your church or place of worship without being specifically asked to do so. However, they won’t give as much as they would if you made a clear and specific fundraising ask.
When making a fundraising ask, make sure you don’t make the donor feel like you’re selling something. Stay personal and build a relationship with them. Ask a lot of question and understand their motivations and interests. Be genuine and authentic, and share stories of why you need the funds. Additionally, always ask for a specific amount for a specific project/program.
As a faith-based nonprofit, you probably have a good (and perhaps even close) relationship with your supporters.
Every supporter has a lifecycle. It’s usually tracked over a year starting from the first contribution.
Managing donor lifecycles and working on donor engagement is one of the essential tasks for any nonprofit. As previously mentioned, one of the first steps in the donor lifecycle is when the member, who has gotten involved with your faith-based organization, makes their first contribution. This act in itself shows a high level of involvement, commitment, and loyalty to your nonprofit.
Later in the donor lifecycle, you will be focusing on creating an ever-stronger relationship with your supporters by thanking and recognizing them for their gift. You will also need to communicate with them on a regular basis and keep them updated.
Therefore, giving is a “natural” element of a supporter’s lifecycle.
Whether your faith-based nonprofit is a church, a mosque, a synagogue, or something very different, it is likely that your faith promotes kindness and giving, as well as stewardship of worldly gifts.
As people of faith, your donors are generally invited to be good stewards of the gifts they have been given. Stewardship is about ‘managing’ those gifts in a good way, providing for oneself and one’s family, but also sharing them with others in need.
This is a very good example of how fundraising and faith are complementary. Your faith-based nonprofit essentially serves as an intermediary between your supporters and those in need.
Supporters from most religious traditions give out of a sense of gratitude for what they themselves have, out of generosity and belief that they need to redistribute the blessings they have received. Faith-oriented donors give to express gratitude for their blessings and to make a difference in the world. This is your nonprofit’s biggest advantage when it comes to fundraising. Faith-oriented individuals are already givers – people for whom regular and generous giving already is a habit.
Following from the previous point, faith-based organizations have the opportunity to link faith, fundraising and good results.
When your members donate they support your nonprofit financially. That support goes a long way in helping you deliver your mission and show results.
This connection can also make it much easier for your members to donate to your faith-based organization.
For example, if you are synagogue with a strong faith in serving the homeless, talk to your members about that belief. Tie it in with teachings about good stewardship of their finances. This helps your supporters make the connection between donating and social impact. Seeing the connection helps them see the purpose of their giving. It also means you get to stay authentic and committed to your organization’s purpose.
This is, in fact, a fundraising strength that faith-based nonprofits have. Your nonprofit can really “work with” the why – focus on why members should give, rather than how. Focusing on the mission can really help faith-based nonprofits grow.
For example, The Salvation Army’s mission is “to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human need in His name without discrimination.”
The Salvation Army is not only a large nonprofit human service organization, it is a church, and they are consistently rated near the top of the most popular nonprofits in the United States.
This might very well be due to their frugality with money and transparency with how they spend it, another important thing for nonprofits to remember.
What nonprofits do is very noble. They do amazing work for a purpose. They serve communities and work on inspiring missions.
Being a part of a nonprofit, especially a faith-based one, one sometimes gets absorbed in the world of noble ideals: thinking doing good work and serving others suffices. And it does in a way. Unfortunately, it doesn’t suffice when it comes to meeting your financial goals.
The world runs on money. It’s how you pay for your space, for your utilities, for living costs, for any kind of program or service you might be running.
Ideals and missions are still important, they make your faith-based nonprofit special and important to the world, but it is an illusion to think they are the only thing you need.
Religious groups that took in half of all charitable contributions in 1990 now get less than a third amid a shift in generational giving habits. Older churchgoers often put something in the collection plate every week, but younger worshipers “see the church now as just one place to give,” said Joel Mikell, president of RSI Stewardship, a Dallas-based firm that works on church fundraising campaigns.
Many faith-based nonprofits have previously relied on their ceremonies to sustain themselves. However, with diminishing worship attendance (especially of younger generations), many faith-based organizations are turning to more secular approaches to financing.
This includes more modern websites, investing in digital marketing, events, and social media.
Offer tangible opportunities for supporters to get involved beyond giving money. This is especially the case for younger generations. Give them a way to invest their time and talents in service of something greater.
Faith-based nonprofits face a special set of challenges. The fact your missions are faith-focused can work both for and against you.
Faith can motivate people to do good, to build, to protect, to share. These are already amazing qualities faith-based nonprofits don’t have to instill in their members. Your members and supporters are presumably already motivated to give, which is a huge advantage.
Newly released data from the Philanthropy Panel Study show that the religious among us are more likely to give to charities than those who do not identify with a faith tradition. The Philanthropy Panel Study, an ongoing project at the University of Indiana’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy that tracks U.S. household giving.
On the flip-side, faith-based organizations are often more scrutinized than their secular counterparts, perhaps exactly because they’re faith-based and somehow held to a higher standard.
As a faith-based nonprofit, remember to intensely work on the best fundraising techniques the secular world has to offer, but also remember to use your unique strengths.
If you’re interested in specific fundraising ideas for your faith-based nonprofit, check out our Church Fundraising Ideas article.